686 | To the Earl of Hillsborough

    No 23

    Boston Sep 23 1768

    My Lord

    Upon the receipt of your Lordship letter No 161 I ordered a Council to be called on the morning of Monday last: at which time I communicated the two first paragraphs of your Lordship’s letter, & also a Letter from Genl Gage to me wherein he writes that in obedience to his Majesty’s commands He had ordered 2 regiments from Halifax to Boston, the one to be quartered at Boston, the other at Castle William; and desiring that quarters might be provided for them.2 The Council instantly resorted to the Act of parliament3 & there it was read that if there were no Barracks, The troops should be quartered in the public houses,4 & if they were not sufficient, then the Governor and Council or in their default the Justices of peace should hire barnes outhouses &c for them. They therefore said that as there were no Barracks, they had nothing to do with it; for it was the Business of the Constables to billet them in the public houses, & the Council had nothing to do till the public houses were full. I answered, that they must be sensible that this Act of parliament (which seemed to be made only with a View to marching troops) could not be carried into execution in this Case. For if these troops were to be quartered in public houses & thereby mixt with the people their intercourse would be a perpetual Source of affrays and bloodsheds; and I was sure that no Commanding officer would consent to having his troops separated into small parties in a town where there was so public & professed a disaffection to his Majesty’s British Government. And as to hiring barnes outhouses &c it was mere trifling to apply that clause to Winter quarters in this Country; where the Men could not live but in buildings with tight walls & plenty of fireplaces. Therefore the only thing to be done was to provide barracks; and to say that there were none was only true, that there was no building built for that purpose; but there were many public buildings that might be fitted up for that purpose with no great inconvenience. At last what I said produced a Committee of Council to confer with the Selectmen about providing quarters for the troops: and the Council was adjourned.5

    I had no Opinion of this refere[nce]6 but could not avoid consenting to it. I considered that the Selectmen were the tools of the Faction; & the Design of the latter was to embarras the business of providing quarters so as to oblige the Officers to make good their own quarters; & from thence to ground an insurrection of the people against the invaders of their property. I was told 2 or 3 days before this Council met, that Otis explained the Plan at the Town meeting (or at some other Meeting about the same time, I forget which) in the following manner. “There are no Barracks in the Town; and therefore by Act of parliament they must be quartered in the public houses. But no one will keep a public house upon such terms, & there will be no public houses. Then the Governor and Council must hire Barnes Outhouses &c for them; but no body is obliged to let them; no body will let them; no body will dare to let them. The Troops are forbid to quarter themselves in Any other manner than according to the Act of parliament, under severe penalties. But they can’t quarter themselves according to the Act: and therefore they must leave the Town or seize on quarters contrary to the Act. When they do this, when they invade property contrary to an Act of parliament We may resist them with the Law on our side.”7 So here is a System to make an Act impracticable & then to oppose the Kings Troops for not observing it. Indeed the Act is impracticable enough without all this contrivance. But what is most surprising is that So many persons of consideration & property should join in supporting a Scheme, which if it is carried into it’s full Execution, must involve this Town into universal Desolation & Ruin, in order to save a few desperate & wicked Men from being made answerable for their Crimes. And yet your Lordship will find the forementioned System of reasoning adopted by Men, from whom One could not expect to have heard it seriously mentioned.

    At the next Council, which was yesterday,8 the Committee reported that the Selectmen had given for Answer that there was an Act of parliament for the quartering troops & they had nothing to do with it; but gave it for their Opinion that it would be most for the peace of the Town that the two regiments expected from Halifax should be quartered at the Castle. That in regard to the Troops expected from Ireland, It was time ^enough^ to think of them; as it would be a long time before they would arrive; & ^most^ probably they would not come here before Winter: for Mr Hancock one of the selectmen had told them, that he had advice from London, that the troops ordered from Ireland would not sail till after the parliament met. And the Gentleman who reported said that if they were to sail this fall it would be so late, that probably they would not get in [in] these Seas till Winter was set in & then they would be drove off the Coast. __ In this manner was your Lordship’s positive Notice of the ordering these Troops to embark immediately & his Majestys orders thereupon treated.9

    After the Report was made, followed sevral Speeches all tending to give reasons why they could not provide barracks for the reception of the Troops. It was strongly urged that the Act of parliament directed how to quarter the troops & they could not depart from it. I reminded them that at the last Council it was generally agreed that it would never do to quarter the Troops in public houses; for it would produce the utmost disorder throughout the Town; and they must be sensible that Troops could not live in the Winter of this Country in barnes outhouses &c. That I did not want them to act against the Act of parliament, but to carry into Execution the first part of it which recommended the troops being put into barracks as the most preferable disposition; & thereby avoid resorting to the latter parts of it which had been admitted by them to be impracticable. They Answered that if they were to follow the Act of parliament, the Barracks at the Castle ^which were in the Town of Boston^ must be filled before they could demand other quarters. That the barracks at the Castle would hold the whole of the 2 regiments from Halifax. I observed that they confounded the Words Town & Township; that the Castle was indeed in the Township of Boston but was so far from being in the Town that it was distant from it by water 3 miles & by land 7. Besides in the generals orders there was an express distinction between the Town & the Castle, one regiment being to be quartered in the Town & the other at the Castle; that it could not thereby be intended that both should be quartered at the Castle. And in your Lordships orders that the 2 regiments from Ireland should be landed at Boston It could not be conceived that your Lordship imagined that the Castle; which was known to stand upon an Island some miles distant from Boston was in Boston & that in executing those orders it would be sufficient to land those regiments at the Castle. But It was insisted that Town & Township was the same, and that the Castle was in the Town of Boston; and that as the Act had directed the Barracks to be first used, neither the General’s ^nor your Lordships Letters^ could alter the Law: and one Gentleman added that If there had been other Barracks in the Province tho’ at 50 miles distance, they must be filled, before any quarter could be demanded at Boston. I told them that this fallacious way of reasoning, however it might flatter them, would not pass elsewhere; and particularly they never would be able to persuade the Commanding Officers, who are ^ordered^ to land their troops at Boston, to land them at the Castle. And therefore as the Officer would certainly bring their troops into the Town, if no barracks were provided for them they would in their own defence be obliged to take possession of some of the public buildings & make barracks for themselves. I was then told by one Gentleman that ^as^ It was sup[osed] that the troops would be under my command, if they should come into the town & take quarters contrary to Law, I should be charged as the Author of it. I replied that whatever power I might have over the Troops, I certainly should not have that of requiring them to disobey their Orders. On the other hand I desired them to consider what they would have ^to^ answer for, if by refusing to concur with me in providing barracks for the troops, they should oblige them to provide their own quarters, & thereby afford a pretence for the Enemies of the public peace to draw the people into an opposition to the Kings troops, which they had in Vain attempted to bring about previous to this landing. I then gave them the Account of the declaration of Otis upon this subject as mentioned in pa 2 & 3 of this letter: and I might have added that it was long ago since I first heard that it was the intention of the Faction to embarras the business of quartering the troops & thereby set them and the people together by the Ears. In the Course of this dispute It was frequently urged on the side of the Council, that they had no power to draw money out of the Treasury for building or fitting up barracks. This Argument was allways ready at hand when any plan was proposed for the purpose. As I saw We were like ^to rise^ without doing any thing I was reduced to make a proposal as my ultimate effort. I observed that Col Dalrymple with the two regiments from Halifax were expected evry day; that the Barracks at the Castle, altho’ they had held 1000 men for a short time in the Summer, yet they would not hold much more than a regiment ^with convenience^, & Col Dalrymple certainly would not consent to take less than a regiment to Boston. Therefore Accommodations for one regiment ought immediately to be provided. That there was the Manufactory house (a brick building belonging to the province) now wholly unappropriated, and inhabited only by self settlers who are ready to go out at a days Warning.10 This building with a ^small^ addition to it for Officers, would hold a regiment. I therefore desired that they would authorise me to fit up this building with the addition; & I would assure them, that if the Assembly should refuse to allow this Expence I would engage to recommend it to the Kings Ministers, so that it should be paid by the Crown & they should be indemnified from it. When this was done we should have time to consider of providing for the two regiments from Ireland. If they refused this, I did not see how they could clear themselves from being charged with a design to embarras the quartering the Kings troops nor of the Consequences which might follow the obliging the troops to make good their own quarters. I spoke this so forcibly, that some of them were stagger’d, & desired further time to consider of it: I therefore adjourned the Council to this day, & since on account of the Weat[h]er to tomorrow. I have since spoke with sevral of them & they all tell me that I shall never get a Vote for providing barracks for the Troops at Boston. One of them pleasantly said, “what can you expect from a Council who are more affraid of the people than they are of the King?”11

    Sep 24

    The bad weather continuing, I am obliged to postpone the Council to another day as sevral of them come out of the Country & would not attend on this day. And as there are 2 ships ready to sail as soon as the storm is over,12 I shall probably send away this letter and its duplicate before I can bring this business to a conclusion. I am sorry I am obliged to give your Lordship a detail so disgraceful to the body which is the Subject of it. But it is necessary as well to my Vindication, as to give your Lordship a true Idea of the present State of this Government. I shall pursue this Narrative till I have finished it. In what I shall have to write upon o[ther] parts of your Lordships letter I shall have frequent occasion to observe how impossible it will be for me to execute his Majesty’s commands according to his expectation, untill I have a Council more dependent upon the King than the present is.

    I am with great respect, My Lord, Your Lordships most obedient and most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    The right honble The Earl of Hillsborough

    P.S. Sept 24

    After I had finished this letter, I received a Message from the Council to inform me they were ready to give an Answer to my proposal made at the last Council. I accordingly met them & received the Answer, in which they positively refuse to do any thing for providing for the troops expected from Halifax except fitting up the barracks at the Castle. And for the troops expected from Ireland they absolutely refuse to make any provision, but shall leave them to be billeted according to the Act of parliament; which they know to be impracticable under the present Circumstances of the Town.13 I am sorry to see this Spirit got so high in the Government: It can end in nothing else but obliging the Troops to prov[ide]14 their own quarters. I cannot act in this myself: all that there is left for me to do is to give up the Manufactory house for the use of the Troops. This I will do without the Council, tho’ I foresee it will create a clamour. They have taken back their Answer to correct some mistakes. I shall receive it tomorrow & will send your Lordship a Copy with my observations on it.

    I am with great respect My Lord, Your Lordships most obedient and most humble Servant

    Fra Bernard

    ALS, RC     CO 5/757, ff. 414-418.

    Endorsed: Boston Septr 23d: 176[8] Govr Bernard (No 23) R 3d Novr: A.50. Variants: CO 5/767, ff 97-98 (L, RLbC); BP, 7: 47-56 (L, LbC); Letters to the Ministry (1st ed.), 56-62; Letters to the Ministry (repr.), 75-83. Copies were laid before both houses of Parliament on 28 Nov. 1768. HLL: American Colonies Box 3.